Review: Resident Evil 8 – Village (PS4) ~ Putting Together Rose.

Official websiteWikipedia entry

One of my favorite genres is action adventure games. The Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider and Uncharted games are just a few examples. And I don’t mind when you sprinkle in a bit of horror like in Fatal Frame or Silent Hill. Now, I have played Resident Evil in the past and I have gotten quite far in Resident Evil 4. So, at the start of 2023, I decided to pick up Resident Evil Village on my PS4, since it was on a massive sale, and I was able to grab it with all the DLC for €10. So, was that a good decision? Or should I have skipped this one? Is it a bad thing that I haven’t finished Resident Evil 7? These are all interesting questions that I’m going to answer and maybe you too. Because, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. And just before we start the article, I want to mention that this game was played on my PS4 Pro and I have only played the single player campaign on the default difficulty. I haven’t played a lot of the other modes and I haven’t played a second of the VR mode in this game.

Putting together Rose

This game is a direct story sequel of Resident Evil 7. While I own Resident Evil 7, I haven’t finished the game yet. In a matter of fact, I’m still at the beginning of the game. I didn’t finish that game because I got distracted by other games and I haven’t made the time yet to finish the game.

Now, if you dislike spoilers, I’m afraid to say that the intro to this game spoils the whole ending of Resident Evil 7. Thankfully, you don’t have to have played Resident Evil 7 to understand the story and what’s going on in Resident Evil 8. I’m sure that some references and story beats went over my head, but I take that.

One thing is for sure, now that I have finished Resident Evil 8, I want to finish Resident Evil 7 as well. How did Ethan Winters get in this mess? Ethan Winters is the character you play as in this game. After being kidnapped in your own home and the car being attacked, Ethan lands in a strange village filled with monsters. The opening story beats are in a way similar to Silent Hill 1’s opening if you squint and ignore a lot of details. But I’m going to explain it like that to avoid spoilers of this game.

Let me just say that the world building and overarching story in this game is amazingly put together. The mystery in this game is great, and it leads to an ending that I didn’t see coming at all. The ending leaves so much open for a potential sequel or continuation of the story, it’s insane.

Now, you can experience this game in various modes. I played this game in 3rd person, since I feel that’s the way how Resident Evil games should be played. And it’s a decision I don’t regret at all. Since, the voice acting in this game gets so much more powerful when you see Ethan’s full character model in cutscenes. Not only is the voice acting of the voice actors extremely well done, the sound design of the voices adds so much. The amount of times I was able to hear an enemy crawl up to me and take the right action during combat… I lost track of counting.

I was very immersed in the story of this game. The world building, the story, the additional notes scattered around, and the voice acting are just a few examples of things that this game does really well. The only thing that this game isn’t, is a survival horror game. Maybe it gets more tense when you play on the higher difficulty settings but on the default difficulty, this game isn’t too difficult. And it’s a shame, since I feel that the easier difficulty in this game drags it down a bit.

It’s not that the game holds your hand, but it’s that the game is a bit too easy. There are a lot of signs and moments where the game tries something unique to spice up the gameplay like having a big vampire hunting you down in one section… But by then, that section is reaching its conclusion, so it’s over before you know it.

But, how is it?

I think it’s fair to say that the 8th mainline entry in the Resident Evil series takes some inspiration from the 4th entry. This game feels a lot like Resident Evil 4 in core concepts. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it might not be what Resident Evil fans expect from the series.

I’m just thankful that this game doesn’t overfocus on action like in Resident Evil 5 and 6. In this game, you are having an adventure trying to find answers to various questions.

I’m going to describe the next section for avoid spoilers reasons a bit vague. But, the gist of this game is that there are, depending on how you count, 5 main area’s in this game. One hub area and 4 other sections.

Each of these sections have their own theming and puzzles. You have to explore each one of those sections, trying to find the next puzzle piece to progress. All the while you avoid enemies and loot your environment for supplies. You mostly use these supplies to craft more ammo since some of these enemies you fight either come in mass quantity or are anything but push overs.

Overall, most of the puzzles in this game aren’t too difficult when you pay attention. Only once I looked at a walkthrough because I totally forgot about a mechanic that actually held the solution. Now, something I really liked in this game is how the map system gives you a clue if you got everything in a certain room or not. When the room is colored red on your map, there is still something of value to be found in that room. If it’s blue, you got it all. I really enjoyed looking in every corner to try to find some more items or treasure to get more cash. Do know, that this only counts for rooms, so outside areas don’t follow this mechanic.

The map system is a really great tool to aid you in puzzles. It’s filled with handy notes to quickly find certain locations back when you got the required item. Or it’s a hint on which item you need to find to progress or open that location. So, if you are stuck… Keep an eye on your map. It saved me a handful of times.

Usually, I’m really hesitant when it comes to shooting weapons while playing on a controller. I feel that you can’t aim as well as with a mouse. Of course, there is aim assist but still… Somehow it feels strange in my mind. But, in this game I didn’t have a lot of trouble during combat. I enjoyed the tense moments in combat. The weight of the weapons and trying to find the correct weapon for the situation felt quite rewarding.

While playing this game, I often felt like I was playing the newer Tomb Raider games. The story takes a little backseat in during the campaign but it ramps up near the finale. Also, near the finale it gets more clear that this game is a more cinametic experience then an action adventure game. I have read reviews from other players who call this game a walking simulator. While that’s extremely harsh, some moments do feel like that sadly.

Visually, most of this game looks quite stunning. The enviroment and character models look mighty fine. There were a few textures here and there that felt last gen like dense grass. Granted, I saw that drop in some textures when I disabled HDR in my PlayStation since I think my fan isn’t supporting HDR. But, besides that tall grass texture, this game looks amazing. There are even a lot of throwbacks and easter eggs in the visuals and animations for long time Resident Evil fans to enjoy.

Speaking of animation, the animation in this game gets an A+ from me. The only nitpick I have is that the death animation of some enemies is a bit too long so it gets confusing if you have downed an enemy or if you have killed it. But, apart from that, the animations are so immersive. To that point that I sometimes had a hard time knowing when a cutscene starts or ends. Not only that, sometimes I really felt the punches I threw or the gun being shot.

Survival with a handbrake

The soundtrack in this game is also well crafted. It adds to the creepy and spooky atmosphere of this game. The score for this game feels like a more orchestral version of the Zero Escape soundtrack. When it’s not tense and making you nervous that there is something behind you, the soundtrack is loud and proud. It made me sit on the edge of my seat sometimes.

The only thing I regret is that I didn’t play the whole game with my bluetooth headset on. I only played the finale with my bluetooth headset and let me tell you, it makes the soundtrack that much stronger. It also helps with the sound design. The growls of the enemies are that much creepier when they are creeping up on you.

The controls in this game get a chef’s kiss from me. They all felt really natural and responsive. I only had some occasional janky moments when trying to run and duck underneath something. Since clicking the left stick once is going in or out of a crouch and pressing and holding the left stick is actually running. And in tense moments, the game didn’t always recognise that correctly.

In terms of UI, the only complaint I have is that the map screen and the inventory are two seperate menu’s. This is something that tripped me up multiple times. But, that’s the only complaint I have about the UI. The UI is perfectly designed and everything is easy to find and navigate. So, I was able to tweak the settings in the option menu to my liking. Since, I felt that the sensitivity of the aiming wasn’t fast enough.

The amount of things you can change in the options menu is just perfect. You even unlock some interesting stuff after you have beaten the game once which you can toggle on or off. Something I liked as well, was the fact that you get a warning before you an buy an attachment to a gun you don’t own.

Sadly, there are some glitches in this game as well. Thankfully, I have only experienced a few, but I have seen some strange things online and especially with the speedrun of this game… This game has some crazy out of bounds glitches. I even found one in my playthrough. Thankfully, you have a restart button in the pause menu to go back to your latest save, but the fact that it is there…

Apart from that, I mostly had a glitch free experience. I did have some graphical pop-in in the late game but that might be because after I had beaten the game, I discovered that my HDMI cable was going so that take with a grain of salt.

I do have one nitpick I have to mention as well. I find that the credits’ text didn’t had the best contrast to the background and I was unable to read some names because of that. I usually reference the credits to know if my research is correct.

Now that I have beaten this game, a lot of additional content got unlocked. Currently, I’m playing through the DLC Shadow of Rose. But, I think I’m going to do something unique for this game. I’m going to play through the additional and bonus content and write a follow up review article and tell you if my thoughts and opinions on this game changed. So, if you want to read that, feel free to subscribe to my blog and you’ll get it an e-mail when it’s published. It’s also a good idea to follow me on Twitter to get the latest updates.

So, I have beaten this game in give or take 9 hours. I was able to save quite easily at save spots or rely a bit on the auto save here and there. Now, from what I read, I still have at least three hours of DLC content and some additional game modes to play through. I feel that this game is a bit short and uses it’s idea’s a bit too quickly. Similar games go on for at least 3 – 4 more hours. But, that’s what the additional content will bring. So, if you want to get the most out of this game, I encourage you to buy the DLC as well.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Great visuals

+ Great soundtrack and sound design.

+ Great voice acting

+ An adrenline rollercoaster from start to finish

The bad:

– A bit too easy, no real survival elements in this game.

– Over too fast, some idea’s could have been used more/better.

The final thoughts:

You know what this game feels like in the end? Like you are eating the best french fries you have ever eaten but without any sauce. No ketchup or mayo, just french fries. While you still enjoy these french fries since they are the best you ever had, you still feel that there is something missing.

This game does a lot of things right, but it makes a few mistakes that hurt the game quite a lot. While you can run around in large open area’s, the game is overall quite linear. You go from one large area to another. Combine that with a bit too easy game, you get that your encounters become less scary and your amazingly crafted horror atmosphere looses a lot of its tenseness.

I think that this game shows that there is a great foundation for the future of Resident Evil. A tense story about something that transforms humans in something grotesque and inhumane and about somebody confronting it. But, please, make the game a bit less forgiving and don’t make the next game so linear. I’m not asking for an open world Resident Evil, but I’m asking for the possibility of having more puzzles to work towards at the same time. I feel that Shadow of the Tomb Raider hit a slightly better balance.

Now, is this game a disappointment or is it worth playing? Well, it depends on what you are looking for in a Resident Evil game. If you are looking for a survival horror game, you might enjoy this game if you play it on the highest difficulty… But, I’m afraid that this game isn’t a survival horror game on lower difficulties. If you are looking for a game that’s like the games I mentioned in the introduction of this review… Games like the Indiana Jones games, Tomb Raider or Uncharted but with a more creepy and horror edge to it, then you are in the right spot. Maybe that’s the sauce for those best french fries you have ever eaten… Perhaps Resident Evil is changing its target audience. Or maybe I’m overthinking it and the sauce is something else.

In any case, I still enjoyed my time with this game. I’m planning a second playthrough with the new game plus mode. I’m curious in what I missed. Furthermore, I know that this game has some shortcomings, but honestly, they didn’t bother me. This game was an amazing game to start off my year with, and I’m glad I finished the game. Now, let’s re-install Resident Evil 7 on my desktop and let’s finish up where I left off. Let’s see if Resident Evil 7 is as good as 8, or better or worse…

So, do I recommend this game? Yes, I do. To anyone who is into action adventure games. The production value is through the roof with this game. There are a few things holding it back, but they aren’t so bad in my honest opinion that it hinders the game that much.

Now, I still have to finish the additional (DLC) content of this game. Will this change my opinion on this game? We shall see. I don’t exactly have a time line for when the follow up article is going to be written but it will soon. So, for now I slam this book shut, to be opened in another time.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 85/100

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Preview: Conquer Humanity (PC – Steam) ~ Let’s Go Rouge.

Steam page

In this article, I’m taking a look at a game that’s going to release in the first half of 2023. The developer send me a Steam key for the full version that’s still in development. But, if you get interested in playing this game right after this article, there is a demo available on the Steam store page. In this article, you’ll also get my 100% honest opinion on the game. I’ll take a look at what I played and what I think should be in the full version. So, should we conquer humanity, and should we become a super villain like the Steam store page suggests, or should we wait until this is a bit more polished or skip it outright? Well, that’s what I’m trying to discover with you in this article. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editoral note: the release of the full version is set in Q1 2023 at the time of writing.

Simulation Devil

In this game, you enter a simulation where you are a super villain with various powers. Your goal is to destroy and kill as much as you can before you are defeated yourself.

You do this in a very large map where people are spawned around you. But, the more destruction you cause, the more police will come after you.

To defeat the game, you’ll have to reach level 30. The more people you kill, the more XP you’ll get. If you get a great kill streak and do it in style you’ll get a better ranking and earn more XP and do more damage that way. Compare the style thing to Devil May Cry in a way.

This game is anything but easy. You really have to manage your powers and movement strategically. Since, the smallest mistakes get brutally punished. You have ten lives and no way to get any back. You are able to heal, but you’ll have to kill for that. So, getting surrounded might be your end.

This game is described as a brutal, fast-paced, isometric bullet hell. And I honestly can’t describe it better. For this review, I have played several rounds and I had a really hard time getting further than level 15. I’m a bit on the fence on the difficulty curve, since I honestly think that with one change… This game can become way more fair.

The big issue with this game is that you are directly thrown into the deep end. You are dropped into the simulation with 6 powers on a cool down and a few other mechanics. You barely have any chance to get used to everything, since after a few kills… The police spawns, and you have to be quick on your feet. Now, you do have the sandbox mode to get used to the game. Yet, here the powers aren’t on cooldown, and you don’t see the blue level up bar or the powers.

I think it would give the game a better flow if the player is nudged first to the sandbox mode where you have to reach something like level 10 using the different mechanics. Since, I felt close to overwhelmed with all the different mechanics and I felt that I first had to figure a lot of things out before I was able to attempt the actual game mode.

I don’t want to sound like “this game is too difficult for me, make it easier…”. I just feel that if you give new players too many mechanics at once without them having a way to learn them or practice them, they aren’t going to have a fun time. And I think if you add a mode or a few optional tutorial stages to get used to the game would be a blessing. And I really mean, optional. So people who want the experience of jumping into the deep end can still do it. But, others who want to know how everything works can ease themselves into the game. Since, if I’m brutally honest, the controls manual is helpful if you know how everything works. It’s too bare bones for newcomers. Like, why not add the icons of the powers in the controls manual?

Did it fail?

This game is difficult, and it’s a game you will have to get gud at. Once you learn the different powers and when to flee, this game is actually quite enjoyable. This game has the “one more attempt” mentality nailed down. After you are defeated, you can get right into the action in seconds and try again.

The game also has a built-in timer, which can open the gates for speed runners and other competitions as well. Maybe it would be fun to have a leaderboard with the fastest times and the longest survival times in the full game.

And maybe like an endless mode that started on easy and at certain level milestones, it goes to a higher difficulty?

Are there other things I would like to see in the future? Of course! First, I’d love to see a way to change the key binds. It’s something I mention quite often in my PC reviews, but I get annoyed when the game forces WASD on you and don’t keep in account that there are a lot of countries which have another keyboard layout. Here in Belgium, we use an AZERTY layout, and that means I have to set my hand in a pretty weird spot to move. Since our “A” is where the “Q” is and our “W” is where the “Z” is. And then the powers having keys close to WASD… I only have two hands and I still have to control the mouse.

Speaking off the mouse, I think a controls flaw is created there. I noticed that I had trouble preforming my push move because that was clicking with your scroll wheel. Which is all good and well, but using your scroll wheel actually zooms in or out. So, if you didn’t click in the chaos of this game, and you actually scrolled, well… Yeah, that’s an attack that didn’t happen. Which is sadly not limited to the push attack. There is another attack that I feel either isn’t as powerful or the visuals don’t communicate it’s power/range enough. When pressing Control, you can do a slam down attack. But, it’s not only unclear how big the radius is… it’s also unclear how strong it is.

In this game, it’s important that the visuals communicate with the player what’s happening. All in all, the visuals feel “last gen” but I honestly don’t mind that. It optimizes the game quite a lot, and you get a stable game to play. Also, it makes it easier to read what’s going on around you and makes it easier to make the right decision. I think it would be handy in the future to have a sort of radar in the right corner. Since, it would be helpful to know where the police and such are if you flew too far away.

Speaking about flying, that’s something I want to address as well. In the small manual, it teaches you that you can start hero mode by pressing “H” when you reached at least the “A” style rank. Yet, when you start the game, you get a free hero mode and only get a “B” rank. Now, it’s unclear that the message of “A” style rank still has to be on the screen or not… But there isn’t a way to know if you can activate hero mode or not.

In addition to that, I think there might be something strange going on with the flying… Since, once you lose your first life, you loose hero mode. And when you press the fly button then, you sprint away. Very slowly, sprint away. Yet, I had trouble starting to sprint several times when I press moving.

It’s early simulation

Reviewing or talking about early access games is quite tricky. Especially when they are still in development. You never know in how much detail you should go since a lot of things can change when you get the final product.

For example, I really like the animation system in this game. It’s goofy and gory, which fits this game like a glove. Especially when you make a great combo attack… The slowdown to show you the result of your attack is eye candy. And sometimes a much-needed small break in all that intense action.

That’s something I sometimes missed in this game. A spot or a moment to get a breather from the action. It’s intense all the way through, and you can’t let your guard down at all, or you are done for. And your ability to earn any of the achievements is done for.

Another example is that sometimes there is no music during gameplay. I had several times when the track just stopped playing and no new music track started. Sadly, it ruins the atmosphere, but I think this is something that will be fine-tuned and patched when the game releases.

Speaking of the music, the music is a nice heavy metal track that plays. I really enjoy it, and I’m curious to hear the full soundtrack once the game goes out of early access. Since, it’s the perfect music genre for this style of game. In terms of sound effects, this game is fine but still has some work. Sometimes you hear “god dammit” and I can’t say if it’s my character getting damage or a human dying.

Something I’m really on the fence about is that this game doesn’t have a save system. So, that means you’ll have to do each run in one sitting. I think that’s a shame since if you are in a good run and something happens like automatic Windows updates restarting your computer out of nowhere… It’s the end of the run. And failed runs don’t count for your “best run” in the main menu.

Finding the right balance between challenge, fun, and options is extremely tricky. I have no clue how to implement a save system during a run of this game. And it might open the door for a lot of other issues.

Just like deciding on the cooldown period of your powers. Personally, I feel that sometimes the cooldown is a bit too brutal. Quite often, I felt that the laser power cooldown was a bit too slow. Maybe I’m using the wrong strategy of running away from the cops and trying to kill the small gatherings of humans I left around the map, but the cops are faster than your laser power can regen.

So, what do I think so far of Conquer Humanity? Well, I think this game has an addictive concept where the fundamentals are here. It has that “one more try” and “one more round” written all over it. But, it still needs some polish with the controls and animations. Its biggest flaw is currently that the game doesn’t really explain all its mechanics enough for players to learn how everything works. So for newcomers to these type of games, it’s not the game to get into the bullet hell genre.

I recommend that you give this game a shot and give your thoughts and/or opinions to the solo developer since I think that this game has a lot of potential to be an amazing small indie title to test your skills at crowd control and bullet hell. I might be brutally hard, but it’s a game that feels rewarding for the small progress you made. I highly recommend this game to everybody who is looking for an action/arcade type game and looking for a great challenge with it. Since, there is a lot of game to learn here and it’s going to beat you, several times.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game in this preview. I might take a look at this game once it’s released to see what’s the finished product is. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Game Quicky: Snow Problem (PC – Steam) ~ Sorting The Snow

Steam store page

It’s winter. So, that means that snow is falling. Snow is something you can’t stop and that might cause a problem. But, not in this game. In this game, the concern is that we need a certain amount of colored snow to beat the level before the time limit is up. This game is created by Dave Seaman from whom I reviewed games in the past. He was the developer behind The Rat Pack and Captain Disaster in: Death Has A Million Stomping Boots. Is the 3rd game I’m going to review from him a recommendation or is it one where he swings a miss. Let’s find out together in this Game Quicky article. For full disclosure, the developer provided me with a press key to play this game, but you may rest assured that you’ll get my 100% honest opinion on this game. And as usual, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Let’s save the snow

This game is the perfect easy to understand game. This game is perfect for small sessions when you have a bit of time to kill. The levels in this game are short and easy to understand, so it has that one more round mentality.

The controls are extremely easy. You basically only need the mouse to control this game. While there are keyboard shortcuts for the menu, the game is played with the mouse. It’s a little finicky at first to know at what speed you need to draw the lines, since the faster you go… The more holes there are in your line.

The biggest challenge in this game is to know where and how to draw your lines. Since, momentum is still a thing, so you really need to be careful so that you don’t screw yourself over by drawing a bad line. That’s why on the store page the developer recommends playing with a mouse… Since, this game with a trackpad, auwch. I tried it, and it wasn’t so much fun anymore.

To get used to the game, I highly recommend that you put the prep time to the highest setting in the main menu. The game can be pretty challenging and turn into a trail and error puzzle game, but the short prep time is really irritating if you aren’t used to the game. But, if you want more challenge, you can switch the difficulty easily by changing the prep timer.

A lot of the music in this game is famous classical music and, while I would have loved some original pieces by the developer as well, they fit the game perfectly. There are various tracks which play randomly in the background. It’s almost like you have your favorite music app playing a playlist in the background. Maybe it would be fun if the name of the track shows up somewhere and there is a sort of mini-player. But, that’s possibly a bit of a wild idea.

There is also a level editor in this game. So, that means you can share self created levels with other players. There is no Steam Workshop integration, but if that ever comes it would be nuts. But, the level files are small and easy to share… And the developer invites you to share your levels with him and who knows, they might be added as bonus levels in a future update.

Now, if you are unsure about this game… There is even a demo out of this game. So, you can easily try it before you decide to buy this game for the low price of 4€. You can also bring your progress of the demo to the full game which is an amazing feature.

There are also adorable punny Steam achievements in this game. They are extremely easy to get, but the pun filled nature really adds to the charm of this game.

Something I really like is how you don’t need to play all the levels in order. I really dislike the 21st level. I have tried various times to beat it, but I’m unable to. But, since you always have a handful of levels unlocked, you can just skip that level and keep it for later. You also unlock the next levels so, you don’t have to worry that one level will block you from seeing the rest of the game.

But not all is good in this game, sadly, I do have a few things to criticize.

Let the snow melt

There are a few minor issues in this game. First, there isn’t a safe way to alt-tab out of the game. Usually, when you use alt-tab OR the Windows key to go back to the desktop, you can quickly look something up on the internet and return to the game. Not in this game, since when you re-open it… The resolution goes off, and all color is drained. I had this issue on three laptops I tested this game on. So, be careful if you alt-tab.

But, that’s a minor point. Since the levels are rather short and the game opening so fast, it’s easy to recover from that. Something that I do find a bit disappointing is that there is no pause feature during gameplay or a speed-up feature. Several times I was tapping my fingers on my desk because I knew I was going to beat the level, but I had to wait until it had played out.

Something I’d personally change is that the “how to play” is something that appears before you play your first level. While the gameplay is pretty simple, it didn’t click for me right away. It was easy to figure out after a bit of messing around, but I find it strange that this game has a sort of tutorial but hides it in the main menu.

Which brings me to something else, and it’s something I also have a solution for. This game doesn’t have a colorblind mode. And this is a big issue in this game since this game is highly based on color. One solution is to drastically change the colors OR use different shapes somehow. Like squares that aren’t filled or triangles. Or a 3rd solution is that you can see the color of the snowflake when you hover over it… But, that might not be too handy in the short levels. Now that I think about it, I think drastically changing the colors when somebody enables colorblind mode would be the best solution.

A minor thing I’d love to see changed as well is that after the prep timer ran out and the snow starts falling, that timer turns into a timer that shows for how long the snow will fall. While you have a little more time than there is snow falling, it would just be an additional touch on the game.

Something I have to bring up in the negatives is that this game can be repetitive for some people. That’s because this game only has “one” mechanic. You can only draw those brown lines to try to guide the snow to the spot you want too. I have a few ideas for other mechanics like having to draw those colored lines yourself OR having weight switches to open another path. And wouldn’t it be cool if there were levels where you have to avoid ANY snow from reaching the bottom? There is a lot more that can be done with this game and maybe food for thought for a sequel or spin-off? Or maybe DLC?

The final nitpick I have is, that ALT+F4 isn’t working. Only the assigned keys in the menu’s are working and that can throw you off when you forget about that. I got used to it, but it was a bit annoying sometimes when I accidentally alt-tab’ed out of the game to write this article and I had to force shutdown the game via task manager.

The final suggestion I’d give is that in the main menu… It would be amazing to see a small level preview pop-up when you hover over the level. It would be handy if you want to let your friends try a level without you having to click through all the levels you think that it is.

And with that said, I think it’s high time I wrap up this article. So, in conclusion…

But, what’s the snow quality

Overall, this is a very charming and relaxing game. While it has some rough edges, I think it’s honestly worth it’s €4 price tag. This game is the perfect time waster to waste a few minutes. It can be addictive as well. The game is easy to understand, and it has that “one more try” and “one more level” atmosphere to it.

There are a lot more things that can be done with this game, like more mechanics to spice up the puzzles but like I said in the article. But, the basis of an amazing charming little puzzle game is here. I’d recommend it to everybody who enjoys puzzle and/or casual games. Since, this might be right up your alley. It’s also perfect for to get into gaming in the first place.

I think this will be a game I’ll boot up once in a while to beat a few levels and move on. Especially, when my other games are downloading updates for example. Or I’d boot it up when I want to wind down. Since, I felt very relaxed while playing this game.

Snow Problem is another game by Dave Seaman with a lot of charm I had a blast playing. I’m really glad that the developer asked me to play this game since otherwise I might have just written it off as a silly little game, but under the hood you have a nice relaxing puzzle game.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 7,5/10

Game Quicky: Stygian (PC – Itch.IO) ~ Short Spooks

Itch.io page

It’s that time of year again. It’s time for some spooky scary skeletons. Well, it’s time for some horror. This year, a small developer sends me a mail inviting me to look at Stygian. It’s a short horror game just in time for the spooky season. Today, I’m going to take a look at it and talk about my own opinions on it. It’s free on Itch.io, but the developer accepts donations if you want to see more from them. In any case, in this review I’m taking a look at v1.01. I also have to give a content warning. Since this is a horror game, there will be some scenes that can trigger certain people especially when you aren’t good with anything related to gore and/or death. So, with that said, let’s dive right into this game quicky and let’s see what this game has to offer. But, one thing before that. I want to invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts/opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: this is a rather short game, so I only took screenshots of the first few minutes.

The good

This game takes place in the late 1980s in England. A friend group of girls is doing a creepy sleepover at an abounded church. You play as Katherine, a young girl who arrives a bit late from work but is right in time to hear the creepy backstory. But, when Katherine goes back to her bike to pick up her sleeping bag and enters the church again… Things go horribly wrong.

The voice acting in this game is rather charming. The line delivery is a bit off from time to time but overall, solid performance of the voice actors.

Since this game is rather short by design, I’m not going to go more in depth about the story. Otherwise, I might spoil the experience and the story is best experienced as blind as possible.

Overall, the camera system works pretty well. I adore the Resident Evil – early Fatal Frame static camera shots at weird angles. It really takes you back to the early style of gameplay on the PlayStation and early PS2. Sadly, there are a few instances where the camera angles are a bit janky. For example, in one room you can walk through a door with some draped cloth over it. But, the camera switches a bit too soon, making it a pain when you missed entering the door and trying to get out of the corner, so you can attempt back going into the door. Thankfully, these issues happen far and few between.

Now, this game is a complete throwback since this game also sports some early PS1 3D visuals. This visual style can be a turn off for some people but not for me. I adore the visual style of this game. It fits the story and atmosphere like a glove in my eyes. There are a few minor things I’d have tweaked like making it a bit more clear who is talking, but more on that later.

And the throwback continues with the controls. Do we get tank controls? Yes sir, we do! And I love it. It takes me back when I was playing games like Silent Hill, Fatal Frame and Resident Evil on my PlayStation 1 & 2. Now, sadly this game doesn’t know that other keyboard lay-outs like AZERTY exist… or do they? Since the arrow keys also move. I quickly got used to the controls, and I was able to explore this game pretty fast.

Running around in this creepy church, reading various clues and discovering what really happened is a blast. The game gives you small sparkling hints to most objects you can interact with. So, this is no game of mashing the use key while going over every area to find one or two items.

The music in this game is great. While playing this game, the music reminded me a lot of Silent Hill. The more quote unquote strange ambiance sounds that strange form a melody that’s interesting to listen too but also puts you on edge. This is helped by the silent moments and the excellent sound design with the sound effects to make the game even more creepy.

Something else I want to mention is that this game is available for Windows & MAC. So, if you are a MAC user… You can also play this game.

The bad

There are certain things that this game lacks that make this game a small chore to play. And these are small things that can help make the game more enjoyable to play.

Let me get the biggest problem out of the way first. You can’t skip dialogue at all. Now why is this an issue? Well, in one playthrough I got the wrong ending. Without any game over screen, I got booted back to the main menu. I thought that was it, but then I decided to play through it again, and I found another route and got to experience more. But, that isn’t communicated well enough.

And the opening dialogue is runs on for a bit. But the intro cutscene has a few shots too many and that can’t be skipped either. Other horror games like the Zero Escape series did this a lot better. There you can skip through dialogue you already experienced, and it automatically stops when you encounter new dialogue.

There is something about the visuals I want to mention. The animation in certain cutscenes is a bit lacking. For example, in the opening cutscene, I thought I did something wrong since we see the same scene of Katherine riding her bike twice. It’s a bit confusing and pads out the opening scene too much. But a better example is when we get to meet the other characters for the first time. We are sitting in a circle, and they start talking. Yet, it’s not too clear who is who. A bit later this is better since you can speak to the girls one by one but still, this shouldn’t have been an issue. Just a bit more character animation when somebody is talking would go a long way. It’d also give some scenes a bit more pazzaz, if you understand what I mean.

The final negative I want to mention is that the screen to toggle full screen on and off only works in certain places. Do yourself a favor and toggle full screen on at the main menu. The keybind is F.

The conclusion

This game is an amazing indie game to play at Halloween night. It’s a charming throwback to the early PS1 games that might make you nostalgic to that area.

While this game is a bit rough especially when it’s missing some more modern innovations like skipable text/cutscenes or even a sort of save system, I was able to put those negatives to the side and enjoy my time.

This game isn’t for everyone, especially since some people can be turned off by the visual presentation and/or the control scheme of this game. But I think this game is developed for that niche audience that loves old school horror games and want to experience something like that again.

I think it’s clear if I recommend this game or not. Even with its shortcomings, that might be fixed or improved upon in a patch, this game an enjoyable horror story to play through. It’s charming, and I feel that it’s clearly a passion project done right.

Ant that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. A short article about a short game. I hope you enjoy playing this game and also enjoyed reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Likewise, I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 70/100

First Impression: Island Saver by NatWest (Switch) ~ Saving The Planet With Banks?

Official websiteNintendo.com microsite

I love games with a unique story or goal. When I saw Island Saver by NatWest for free on the Nintendo Switch eShop, I didn’t hesitate for a second. While playing, it suddenly dawned on me. The publishers of this game is an actual English bank from Westminster. Is this free game a hidden ad for their bank or is it a fun game? Or is it something else? Well, allow me to tell you about my experience as a Belgian citizen who doesn’t know anything about the English banking system what my 100% honest thoughts and opinions are! Meanwhile, I also invite you to write a comment about your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

Let’s save the world!

In this game, you play as an unnamed Bio Agent, and your goal is to clean up a peaceful island from pollution. You get equipped with a blaster which can vacuum and shoot out items. This also doubles as your water gun to clear out the goop on the island.

The story in this game is very light. To be brutally honest, the story isn’t anything to write home about. It’s a very generic plot. Yet, I’m going to praise it for something else. As an IT admin in two art schools here in Belgium, I have seen a lot of “edutainment” games that try to teach children things. But most of these applications and games I have seen are mostly exercise machines with a pretty skin.

Not in this game! The basic mechanics and idea’s of taxes and the risks of pollution are explained with mechanics. You also get from time to time, quick and small pop-ups referring to the real world. But, these are far and few between it isn’t a problem at all. This game really reminded me of those old school Humongous Entertainment games, those that sneak actual education in their games without it feeling like a lesson.

NatWest also provided some nice work sheets together with this game on their website for teachers and parents to use. Yet, nothing about this is forced into this game. All these mechanics feel natural in this game, and it all flows extremely well.

Now, what is it that you have to do in this game? Well, in this game you go to various islands to go from area to area, to clean it all up and help the animals living on the island. You do this by vacuuming up all the trash in the area so that plants can grow. You deposit this trash in the correct recycle bin while these animals eat from the plants. These animals are special bank animals, which have to fill up to be saved. As soon as you have saved all the animals in a certain area, you can move on to the next one.

There are a few other mechanics, like you can only store 20 items of the same kind per inventory slot. You also have to clean the goop left by the enemies in this game. But here is one of the first negative things about this game. This game does have enemies but besides undoing some cleaning progress and temporary ink your screen… They don’t do much.

We are so close, oh so close.

The disappointing enemies are the perfect example of one of the biggest flaws in this game. This game is way too easy. Because of this, the game barely has any challenge.

Yet, the gameplay loop of cleaning up the island can be enjoyable for some people. Especially if you enjoy games like Slime Rancher. But there is no real risk in this game.

You could argue that the challenge can come from collecting the special twenty items on the island. But, that’s an optional collectable. When I finished the first island, I found 17/20 without even really trying. So, even that isn’t challenging.

So, let’s see if there is any challenge to be found in this game? Let’s see, you sometimes have to buy seeds to progress from the in-game store. But wait, the game showers you with coins… I can’t remember one moment where I didn’t have enough coins to purchase what I needed.

I’d talk about various other examples, but the biggest issue is that this game doesn’t have enough meat around its bones. And then, the cracks start to show. Because of the repetitive nature of this game, it’s better played in short bursts. And to be quite frank, if you have played the free islands… The DLC islands don’t offer too many new things to justify the asking price.

It’s a shame, since a lot more could have been done with the world that was created here. Maybe we could have used the trash we vacuumed up to create new houses for the animals, or maybe we had to water the plants more than once to make them give off their fruit. But, alas, the game stays too much on the surface level and doesn’t dare to dive into the depth of its possibilities.

I wish it did since there is a lot of potential here. Visually, this game looks amazing. Colorful and family friendly. It’s also easy to understand so the tutorials are short, sweet and to the point. But, then the game lacks a map screen so, it’s a pain to find certain areas when you get lost in the later parts of the level. It’s also a pain to sometimes find a full bank animal in a large area… Since, when a bank animal is filled, it stays in place until you vacuum out the coins from its belly. Yeah, these bank animals are basically walking piggy banks.

The animation in this game is adorable and works really well. Together with the clean UI, it quickly shows the player all the information that you need… But, then finding the enemies can be a pain with the annoying radar. You barely see the distance between you and the enemy. And on top of that, the amount of times the enemies just stopped in front of me, so I could shoot them. It’s painful.

Beware, it breaks.

It’s clear that a lot of passion and love was put into this game. The joyful and relaxing music and charming sound effects are another examples of that. This is a game you can wind down with and relax.

At one hand, I miss some challenge in this game… But, on the other hand it’s still enjoyable to have a game that you can wind down with after a long day at work.

The fact that this free game isn’t riddled with microtransactions left and right is a blessing. The only content you’ll have to pay for are two optional, additional levels. But, here is where I have to report on something. I don’t know yet if this is a freak occurrence but, in one of the DLC levels, the game broke for me.

Broke as in, really broke completely. Just look at the following Tweet I posted yesterday. So, some background. Quite often I play games I want to review on the train from and to work. During one train ride, my game decided to crash during a cutscene that would allow me to go to the next area. Now, I think some variables got flipped but not all. And sadly, the automatic saving system screwed me over here.

Since, when I reloaded that save after rebooting the game, I was unable to vacuum up any items. The gun kept being stuck in the vacuum mode and my rumble went into overdrive. And when I tried to open the pause menu or the menu to summon a bank animal to ride… The game went into a full softlock. This is a situation where a game keeps working, but almost everything locks up, and you can’t do anything about it. Sadly, to recover from this, I had to fully wipe my save file and restart everything. It’s a shame to see that certain softlocks and bugs are still in the game. Thankfully, a lot of the reported ones got fixed but, I don’t see this issue getting fixed almost 2 years after release.

Just like I don’t have high hopes of seeing the power-ups coming to the game. Since, it always says: “coming soon”… But the last update to this game was in September 2020.

Yet, I don’t think I can complain too much. I mean, this is a free game released during a pandemic. Also, when you look at the website of the developer Storm Cloud Games, this is the first game that greets you. It’s also released for free on almost every platform. The amount of work that this would have taken is just insane.

Overall, this game is clearly an edutainment children game that put entertainment first. With easy to learn and easy to master controls, this game is quite enjoyable to play in short bursts but the lack of depth in the game and the repetitive nature of the game makes you wish for a bit more. The game has the charm but not the “umph“. I’m honestly afraid that other similar games like Slime Rancher blow it out of the water.

Would I recommend playing this game? Yes, I do recommend it for casual players who are looking for an enjoyable charming adventure game. But, don’t set your bar too high… Since, this game doesn’t dare to go deeper into the ocean than dipping its toes into it. But, maybe that’s enough to have an enjoyable train ride to school or work for you.

But, with that said, I have said everything about this game I wanted to say for now. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in the future, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine GBC – Level 2 – Babylon

In May and July, I have written about how the speedrun of Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine for the GBC works. I wrote about the Any % route and the All Treasures route of the first level Canyonlands. Today, I want to take you on a journey to the second level Babylon. So far, we are following the levels of the N64 and PC version. But later in the game, we’ll have some differences. Anyways, before I get right into talking about the route, I want to mention that I’ll be talking certain terms and techniques that I have explained in the previous articles. If something is unclear, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts/opinions on this article! Anyways, let’s get right into it… Here I go explaining the route of the second level.

A small update

I have a few announcements to make. The first announcement is that two weeks after I published my write-up on the All Treasures route of Canyonlands, I decided to run the level again. With the possible time saves I have talked about in the article. And wouldn’t you know it, I have lowered the record from 4 minutes 41 seconds to 4 minutes and 36 seconds. Yup, I lowered the record by 5 seconds. I’m convinced that with a bit better movement and a bit more luck with RNG, the record might even go lower.

The second announcement is that all GBC categories are currently filled. What I mean by that is, that each category has at least one run. The only category that didn’t have a run was the full 100% run of the game. Where all treasures were picked up, almost all healing items (and sold) to play the full game including the secret level Return to Peru.

This run is stressful and not a lot of fun to do. Since, one or two mistakes in a level can cost you the whole level and in certain levels that can be a major time loss. In my run, I made a lot of mistakes, and I’m convinced it can get lowered, but that’s not for today. After trying for over three months, I finally got a run that I felt happy with, that made it to the end. And to my surprise, the end time was only ~25 minutes longer than my All Treasures run without Peru. The run took me 2 hours, 25 minutes and 56 seconds.

The final announcement is that I lowered a few other records. I lowered the time on Palawan Volcano and Infernal Machine. But, I’ll go more in detail about that when I get to the write-up of those levels.

With that said, here are the current stats of the second level.

Link to Speedrun.com page (All Treasures)Link to Speedrun.com page (Any %)
The current world record at the time of writing is owned by:

for Any %: the_kovic who ran this level in 4 minutes and 19 seconds on January 29th 2022.
for All Treasures: me who ran this level in 6 minutes and 44 seconds on February 28th 2022. (Note, my ILS is part of my All Treasures – No Peru record. That’s why the video time is so different.)

Editorial note: when I haven’t given credit to screenshots, it’s taken from my runs.

ILS = Individual Level Speedrun. A speedrun of only one level.

Good to know: when I talk about a “two block gap” or “a tile”… the size of a tile is give or take half Indy’s sprite.

The route

You would think that the route is quite different in the two categories due to the almost 2 minutes and a half-time difference between the two. But, let me assure you, that’s not true. The route is almost the same but only some differences that add up some time on the clock. So, I’ll mention these “side paths” in cursive when the time comes. So, the cursive text is something additional for the All Treasures route. Text in cursive should be skipped and ignored when you go for the Any % route.

The first 30 seconds of the level is the exact same for both categories. As soon as the level starts, you’ll have to mash “A” to get the text box out of the way and move to the right.

Run from the_Kovic
Run for the_Kovic

You’ll quickly reach a part of the structure where you can jump on. Jump on top of the lower brick and try to stay at the right edge of it while moving up. Here is a screenshot from the_Kovic’s run that has amazing positioning.

The reason that you have to be as close to the right edge as possible is that it saves a few frames on the jump to the right you’ll have to do when on the top.

Also, the_Kovic also discovered during making the TAS of the Any% of this game… That when you are on the edge of a block, the actual edge… You can make jumps further and higher than you expect. This’ll come in handy in the next screen. So, after the jump to the right, you’ll have to do some jumping up a “staircase” to exit the screen.

Run from the_Kovic

When you enter the next screen, it’s important that you land on the block that’s sticking out. The reason is that otherwise, you’ll lose a lot of health. Health that you’ll need later in the level.

Granted, there is a herb really close by but grabbing that herb in Any% is out of the way and makes you lose more time than landing on the block. If you are certain of your abilities, this block can be skipped when you go for the All Treasures route, but the time gain is as good as lost with picking up the herb. So, yeah. I usually try to avoid taking damage here.

Now, next is moving towards that movable brown block. In the current world record by the_Kovic, he actually lost time. Remember how I talked about the discovery he made during the creation of the TAS? Well, you can make two gap jumps and land one block higher when you jump from the edge of the block. It’s something you can see in action in my All Treasures run at the 6 minutes mark.

Sadly, this is quite a precise trick and being able to do it saves ~ 2 to 3 seconds. Yet, failing it… Well, let’s say it can cost you ~ 5 or even more seconds. Depending on if you move the block or not. This jump can be implemented in more spots, but it’s not too beginner-friendly. Since, the edge of the block almost looks like Indy isn’t touching the block anymore at all.

Anyway, after you made this jump you’ll have to jump on the building. Be careful when you jump since almost the whole back tile is blocked by a wall. So, don’t jump too early. When you land on the building, a small cutscene plays with a door opening. And here is where the first route difference happens. After the cutscene, you’ll have two options.

The blue arrow points to the all treasures route and the red arrow to the Any % route. Now, this door goes to a location where you only pick up one treasure and only has one entrance and exit. So, after picking up that treasure, you’ll have to jump on the building again and continue with the Any % route.

Now, let’s pick up our first treasure. To enter the door, you can either drop and run or jump from the block.

Jumping is a few frames difference since jumping is a tad bit faster compared to first having the dropping down animation. Anyhow, it can also be a mental thing… It feels faster to me. Now that we entered the room, we have to do something that I always call… Dancing with the guard. The treasure is in the top left corner of the room. In the top right, a guard spawns. This guard is annoying and can decide if you lose time or not.

The fastest way to get the first treasure is going to the bottom of the tent and picking up the treasure, like the purple line shows. Now, the faster you do this, the less far down the guard goes. If the guard is at the position from the screenshot, you are safe to leave in the exact same way you came. Otherwise, you’ll have to go around via the top of the tent and lure the guard a bit away from the exit. Since, his hit box otherwise blocks the exit if you take the bottom route. Going via the top route looses a second but is safer. Also, if you lost too much health, don’t take the herb from the other screen… There will be a herb that’s a bit later you can grab that’s less of a time loss. Now, take the route with the red arrow before the cursive text began.

So, when you jumped over the gap and moved down to the next screen. Here, you’ll enter a room with two treasures and this room is a pain for the All Treasures %. But, for the Any %, you’ll have to just drop in the water… Or when you know the right spot, jump into the water to save a few frames.

Now, picking up these treasures is a pain in the behind. It doesn’t matter to which way you jump first. But it matters from where. The safest is jumping from inside the purple squares. The best thing that can happen when you jump wrong is that you hit the wall. The worst thing that can happen when you jump wrong is that you drop into the water, and you’ll have to go around to get another chance. And that time loss, is way too high when you want to beat the ILS. This can only be a back-up strat in full game runs. In any case, after picking up the two gems, drop down in the water, so we follow the Any% route again.

After dropping into the water, you’ll have to swim up. Now, for the all treasures route of this level, you’ll have to make a small detour. The quickest way to exit the water for the Any% route is like the black arrow, hugging all the way to the left. For the All Treasures route, let’s go with the red arrow. You’ll enter the same room but for the all treasures route, swimming all the way to the right avoids one scorpion to pick up the treasure. Also, there is a herb in the middle of the path. Something good to know is that this herb also cures poison stings.

So, let’s pick up our fourth treasure. For this treasure, you’ll have to avoid some scorpions in narrow hallways. After exiting the water, go up right away until you hit the well and then go to the left. You’ll find a blue gem. Be careful with jumping to avoid the scorpions on your way back to the other side of the wall where you picked up the blue gem… Since, jumping too far means, back into the water with you.

When exiting the water following the black arrow, avoid the sting when going up and exit the screen via the left exit. When you are following the All Treasure route of this level, the room you enter in might look familiar. It’s on top of the room with the tent where the first treasure is picked up. When you missed picking up the second and/or third treasure… Those gems, you can drop down here to get another shot.

Depending on how good your lines are, you won’t loose too much health in this screen. Go around the bend and jump on the ladder when there is one tile between you and that will make Indy grab almost the top of the ladder. After climbing up, go left right away, with a bit of luck, the guard won’t shoot you. After that, go down when you can’t go left anymore. But don’t hug the right most edge of the pathway down since the screen transition to the next screen won’t happen.

In the next screen, go to the left and drop down in the section without the guard. To get to the next screen, run on the left most line of the sand. Walking on the tiles won’t transition you to the next screen. On the next screen, hug the left wall and when it bends to the left, go left as well all the while hugging the wall. Now, you’ll come into an open area.

Let’s go a bit to the right to pick up the treasure we saw when entering this screen. When you jump up the block via the right edge to reach the right edge of the platform… You’ll be able to grab the golden coins without the guard being alerted.

Now, go left a tiny bit to enter the door. You’ll enter a small room with a lever. Try to flip the lever as early as you can. This’ll open a bigger door to the left. Exit the room and go to the left to the newly opened door. Now, it’s time to dodge some guards. Also, don’t get distracted but this is one of the few rooms where you’ll notice some slowdown, it looks like this room isn’t optimized and in the long corridor, you’ll notice it… If you don’t hug the wall that is.

In this office space, there are three guards. Now, not taking damage here is almost impossible. So, dodge and weave boys. Go up, go left (don’t forget to pick up the treasure in the first office room, to the left) and go down. Go to the right. Now, in the one to last room, you’ll see a David Star with a hint to solve a block puzzle later. Since we are speedrunning, we shall ignore going into that room since the solution is easy and will be shown later in the article.

When you go up after the room, you’ll see the last guard. If you lost too much health, feel free to pick up the herb. If you have at least half your health, you are safe to continue. Shoot the two barrels so they explore and you can continue to the next screen.

The way forward is quite clear, it’s going down. This will make Indy drop down into a pool of water and now we get to the water maze. The biggest reason why there is such a big time difference between the Any % route and the All Treausures.

Now, allow me to me to use a diagram from the walkthrough by Jeff H. to explain the next parts. The red line is how the fast way in the underwater maze is. Always hug the walls, since that saves frames. Also, there is a small mistake in the diagram. The part before the last bend is a bit higher than shown on the diagram. Don’t waste too much time, since it’s a thight squeeze otherwise. When you go for the all treasures route, do pick up the first treasure in the first swim. After picking up treasure one, exit the water maze and let the breath meter fill before you go to pick up treasure two. This additional swim is one of the biggest reasons for the time difference. We have collected 8 treasures now. Be careful to not press A too soon to pick up the treasures, since Indy’ll swing his machette and this is a small timeloss.

After exiting the water maze, you’ll notice two pressure plates to the edges of the room. First go for the left one and then for the right one. This’ll activate an elevator down in a small cutscene. Then, from the right switch, go up to hit another pressure plate. Hit this switch three times by going on it and off it and on it again. The faster you do this, the more time you save. Then, press the pressure plate one of the left also three times for a small door opening cutscene. Enter that door.

Now, you will enter the room with the David Star where you saw the clue earlier. Move the right block to the most bottom spot on the star. Move the left block to the second spot if when counting anti-clockwise. A door should open. A visual aid:

We are almost at the end of this level. Let’s pick up some tablets. Now, remember this moment for a bit later in the article. Go to the left right away to find a small platform with a yellow L looking thing on it. This is one of the four tablets you’ll need to finish this level.

The red circle in the screenshot is where the tablet was. Now, the next jumps are a bit tricky if you aren’t too used to diagonal jumps in this game. Of course, in the all treasure route, we pick up the treasure. Doing this jump to the ladder saves some climbing time. And like I explained in the Canyonlands write-up, climbing in this game is extremely slow.

When you reach the top of this ladder, you’ll see another L-tablet. Of course, pick that up. Then use your whip to reach the platform to the right. On that platform, pick up the tablet and use your whip to go to the right again to go pick up the final clay tablet.

Now, on the last platform, there is an extremely tricky ladder snipe you can do. The ladder at the bottom is extremely close and it’s extremely easy to over or undershoot it. Feel free to try it since it save a few seconds, but missing the snipe means game over. I usually play it safe and jump across the gap on the right to slide down. This is one of the main reasons why I said you’ll need some health, since if you keep pressing down to go faster on this slide down, you’ll take a considerable amount of damage.

The next step is exiting the room. Now, remember that moment when I said to remember that moment? Well, if you know this room well and practice it… You’ll be able to finish this room in 45 – 50 seconds. The most annoying bit is the whip part since if you aren’t at the right spot, Indy swings his whip in the air and this is the biggest possible time loss in this room. Also, don’t forget that the SELECT button swaps faster between your inventory than actually going in it. The clay tablets don’t appear while using SELECT.

So, now you will need to head to the elevator you activated earlier. Activate the elevator by pressing A whilst having the hand icon at the bottom. This room is the final room of the level. Don’t forget to pick up the final treasure. Since, you won’t be able to pick it up as soon as you place the final tablet! I usually pick it up before doing anything else in this room.

You’ll see a cog and something that looks like a button/switch. Go stand right in front of it, facing it. Open your inventory and select the cog item. This will open the location where you need to place your four tablets you picked up.

Now, when you face the tablet placing spot… Keep calm whilst navigating the inventory. Know that the cursor goes a bit slower then when you press or hold it. The amount of time I lost by doing horrible inventory navigation, it isn’t funny anymore. After placing the 4th and final tablet, a map will be revealed and the end of the level jingle will play.

Wrapping up

This is one of the levels I rarely have trouble with. While I did make some silly movement mistakes in my All Treasures ILS, I did have the route down. I think I can shave off at least 5 to 10 seconds with a lot better movement.

Also, the current Any % world record can be beaten when the at the start, the block isn’t pulled to get on the building and the ladder snipe at the end is implemented. It would bring the record a down by a few seconds. But, you’ll need to play the level close to perfect to beat it. I tried it once and I thought I got it, but due to a bad jump, a bad lever flip to open the office area and no ladder snipe, I lost too much time.

Both records are close to fully optimized. Like I said earlier, my All Treasures has some bad movement and the_Kovic’s Any% doens’t have all tricks implemented. But, you’ll need to practice to be able to beat the times. Unless, there is something I’m overlooking or a new strategy is found or route optimization.

The biggest thing of this level is that it’s a longer level to run sandwiched between three shorter levels. Especially for the Any% runs. I mean, Canyonlands is beaten in a few seconds, and the two next levels can be beaten in give or take 2 minutes. Actually, think about it, the comment doesn’t really count if you go for the All Treasures route.

Anyways, that was the write-up for Babylon. It would be a bit silly to create two parts for this level since almost all treasures are on the Any% route or a bit besides it. But, it made for an amasuing article to write and I hope to read as well. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

The Great Ace Attorney Goes To Review Trial

A collab review by AdventureRules & NekoJonez
Capcom pageNintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

Introduction

When the reader clicked open the link, they entered a luxurious courtroom where the jury, the prosecution and the defense were preparing themselves to start the biggest trial in their careers. The headlines didn’t lie. “Is this the great return of the Ace Attorney series?”. When the title dropped on July 27th 2021 on the Nintendo Switch and other platforms, the reviews started to come in. It’s a big departure from the previous entries in the series, and there is a split between the fans. So, two hobbyist reviewers and big fans of the series decided to battle it out in a courtroom and try to be able to answer the question once and for all. Is the game worth your time, dear readers, or is it not? Take a seat in the gallery and enjoy this duel in the courtroom, and feel free to let us know how we did and what you would bring to the table in this battle. 

The judge rose to his podium while he slammed down his gavel. “The court is in session. Is the prosecution ready?” the judge spoke while looking in the direction of the cat-human hybrid sitting behind the prosecution bench. “Yes M’lord” the prosecution answered. Then the judge looked towards the defense and asked: “Are you ready consul of the defense?”. The defense, trying to hide his nerves, firmly pushed up his glasses and said: “Yes, my lord. The defense is ready.” 

The atmosphere in the courtroom was tense. At one hand, you were surprised to see that these two fans stood face to face in this courtroom defending a game. You know that these two writers are good friends, and it’s not the first time they worked together. But now, it looked like they would eat each other raw to win this court battle. But, on the other hand, you were curious what arguments they would bring to the table. You were curious what their thoughts and opinions were about the game you were looking forward to. While you were lost in thought, you missed the judge asking the prosecution to give their opening statement.

“… so, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a combination of two games that left the Japanese shores for the first time this summer.” the prosecutor said, while raising a scroll. “The original versions got released on the Nintendo 3DS way back in the summer of 2015 and the sequel in the summer of 2017. At first, the developers had no intention of bringing this title to our western shores, so fans took it upon themselves to translate the title. But, to everybody’s surprise, this title got an official translation and all the additional content and behind the scenes material got translated into English and as you all know…” the prosecution continued.

You raised an eyebrow, since the way the prosecution was acting looked a lot like how the prosecutor in the trailer of the game was acting. The only thing you were missing was the pouring of wine. Maybe the writer for the prosecutor got a bit lazy and copied the game a bit too much, you thought. You crossed your fingers in the hope that you would see more of his personal style shine through instead of copying the game too much. It would do this trial so much better if it was unique and not copying the established series and formula, you concluded. But, then you got a bit annoyed that you missed the actual opening statement. Thankfully, you read the headlines of the papers, so you know what this trail is going to be about. 

Visual Presentation

“Let’s start with the visual presentation”, the judge said. The attorney and the prosecution quickly agreed that the visual presentation is excellent in this game. “It’s a huge visual upgrade when you look at it from the 3DS games.” the attorney said. The prosecution somewhat agreed and said: “True, the attention to the details is exquisite. Yet, there were some moments when I felt some models looked off. Not polished enough when being brought over from the 3DS. There was even a puzzle that focused on 3D related technology that would have worked so much better on the 3DS. The fact that they didn’t implement something different or a solution for that… But, something that made me roll my eyes is how they reused the models for the jury. The excuse of ‘London is a big city, so you’ll find look-a-likes’ is okay, if it only happens once. It, sadly enough, happened more than once. Too much to count, to be frank.”

The attorney stepped in and said: “Those moments are few and far between. Besides, imagine the poor designers having to create 50 different character models and such to have unique juries. Let them reuse them, as long as there is variation, and it doesn’t get stale… they also justify it in most cases by having them literally be the same character and not just a lookalike. Ryunosuke even comments on it in one of the trials. So while I will allow that some may not like this choice, it was an intentional one on the part of the designers, and they did the work required to make it make sense in the fiction.” 

The attorney paused for a brief second, took a breath, and continued, “… If we are talking about the visual presentation, let’s mention the animations as well. The cutscenes in this game are way better animated than the previous title. The background is less static. The character animations are A+. Multiple times, I found myself literally laughing out loud at some ways these characters behaved. They strongly convey the personality and attitude of the cast.”

A sigh was heard through the courtroom. Of course, the prosecution had an objection. “The cutscenes are less static, I’ll give you that. But, explain to me why there are so few unique locations in this game. We visit the same hospital room in at least 4 to 5 different cases. You have a point that it would cost too many resources to make something unique each and every time, but why do the characters always have to mention… ‘Oh, what a coincidence… that place.’?” The prosecution slammed on his desk and looked straight at the attorney. “Now, let’s talk about the animations. I’m sorry, but I found that some side characters had more memorable animations compared to the main characters. Take Gina for example, her emotions were way more clear when you read her dialogue compared to the ones of Sholmes for example. Honestly, a bit more variation in the animations would be welcome. Especially, you see the same animations during give or take 10 cases this time and not 5. And maybe a few more if you include the bonus content.”

There was a silence in the courtroom. You felt that both parties were making good points. Indeed, the game looked amazing with various memorable locations. The attention to detail and the little nods to the rest of the series can warm any fan’s heart. But, you can also understand the other side of the argument. At first, this game was split into two 3DS games, and having repeat locations and almost the same animations on repeat, well that could get a bit dull and repetitive indeed.

A hammer slammed down, courtesy of the judge. “Okay, I heard both your points, counsels. But a game is more than just visual presentation and animations. Let’s move on to sound, the audio of this game. Let’s talk about that. Counsel of the defense?”

Audio and Controls

You noticed the attorney smiling and when he started talking, you felt the joy and passion of his words. “I loved this soundtrack so much, but of course, Ace Attorney always knocks it out of the park when it comes to music. There were perhaps fewer songs that stood out to me as all-time favorites, but I found that this soundtrack creates a more evocative atmosphere compared to the other games. Having differences in instrumentation and style depending on which country the characters were in made a difference.” the attorney said. 

The prosecutor squeezed the bridge of his nose and said: “Apart from a few tracks, I can’t agree more. There were a few tracks that didn’t hit the mark in my opinion. But, there is something that this game does that doesn’t sit a hundred percent right with me. Almost every character has his/her own theme. But, they like to use their own themes more during scenes instead of something that would fit the scene more. It made some scenes less memorable in my opinion. Then again, it did make the characters more memorable. So, make of the above point what you will.”

It was an interesting question. Should music in a game make a scene or a character more memorable? There was no real right answer for that question, you thought to yourself. And maybe that’s a question you should leave to game designers and producers instead of wondering it for yourself. While you were thinking about that question, you didn’t notice that both parties were talking about the sound effects in the game. You did hear the summary of it, thankfully.

“So, both parties agree that there is nothing wrong with the sound effects. Intriguing.” the judge said. “Let’s move on to the next section. Let’s talk about the various elements of the design.”

“The controls work pretty well. They are extremely responsive and made me feel in control of the whole series of events.” the attorney said. The prosecutor smirked, and you knew that it didn’t take long before a snide remark was going to come the attorney’s way. “Oh yeah? You are totally ignoring some frustrating things. Let’s talk first on when you go through the testimony of the witnesses, you don’t loop after the last statement to the first statement.”

The attorney shook his head and when he looked up to watch the prosecutor right in his eyes and remarked, “But that has an easy explanation. Just imagine being stuck at a certain point, and you skip the dialogue after the cross-examination where you get a hint to progress.” A sigh was heard. “Okay, I get what you are saying. But, think about this one. The original games were released on the 3DS. This version is on the Switch, where we have TWO additional buttons. One of these buttons could have been a sort of switch you could toggle for toggling between a loop or non-loop mode.”

There was no arguing with that. The prosecutor had a valid point there, but he wasn’t done yet talking about the controls. He rose a finger and said with a smile: “Oh, and one other thing. Let’s not forget that fast-forwarding in some scenes don’t even work correctly. The joint reasoning or the dance of deduction is slow when you have to repeat it when you made a few too many mistakes.”

A debate about some small, minor annoyances of the controls continued. You knew that finding the right balance between mechanics, controls and world-building is a difficult one to get perfectly right. There are always going to be things that work and don’t work. If flawless things existed, would they still be fun? From the controls, you heard the debating pair moving on to other things. 

Replayability and Difficulty

“How about you get two games, including the DLC and bonus content, for the price of one? You get 70, if not close to 80 hours of content to enjoy. Isn’t that worth the price of admission by itself?” the attorney said. 

“If only there was a demo for people on the edge to enjoy. That would make that deal even better. Yet, there are two things I want to touch upon. First, the DLC. You can use alternate costumes, but tell me… Why can you only use them in the second part of the game?” the prosecutor said with a slight annoyance in his voice. The attorney wanted to counterargue, but the prosecutor slammed his fist down and continued.

“Oh, and let’s not forget how everything is already unlocked from the start. Apart from a few things, you can start with the bonus material and totally spoil yourself with the spoiler warnings that could have been implemented a LOT better. Granted, all the bonus content is included, but honestly, after finishing the main game… I felt a bit burned out on the game and I haven’t touched the additional content at all.”

The defense attorney’s eyes were wide behind his glasses. The aggressive offense from the prosecution had left him somewhat stunned. He took a calming breath and spoke. “At least the game is somewhat replayable. I imagine it would be fun to revisit this game after you’ve seen the whole story and to recognize the moments of foreshadowing for what they really mean. Also, you can try to go for unlocking all of the achievements – called medals in this game,” he explained. “Oh, and the automated save system is a blessing. You can save essentially anywhere and if you mess up you lose almost no progress.”

“Those two are quite valid points,” the prosecution allowed. “Now, I think we are going to talk about the difficulty of this game now. Well, I have something to say about that. Something that couldn’t be avoided, with combining two games into one as a sort of collection, is that the first few cases in the 2nd half of the game are a bit on the easy side. Since, originally, you couldn’t be 100% certain if a player played the first game before the second. But, the game isn’t too challenging overall. The previous entries in the series were more difficult. That’s not to say that this game is a cakewalk, though. But, overall, this game felt easier compared to the previous games… But that might have to do with the fact I have been playing these games for years now. I actually found the leaps of logic in this game to be tougher than I remember some other games in the series being. In the second game in particular, I had a game over in every case due to moments where I thought the needed evidence was tricky to figure out.” After that long remark, the prosecutor paused.

He thought he had the attorney cornered. But, don’t ever underestimate somebody who is reviewing or talking about games for so long; a comeback can always happen. 

“I’ll allow that following the logic of an Ace Attorney game can be challenging,” the defense began. “But there’s a place for it. For series veterans, the unique brain bending mechanic of pitting two jury members to each other is a welcome addition. Meanwhile, for those who don’t want to deal with the challenge element of the game, there is a story mode where you just watch through the game’s story without any gameplay mechanics slowing you down. So for players who find the challenge to be a barrier, there is a way to experience the story without the puzzles getting in the way.” 

The judge was in awe, he didn’t have to interject nor lead the trail. Both parties were going from one topic to another and putting all their cards on the table. You knew, that’s because both parties have been analyzing games for several years, so they know what to watch out for. They chose to debate in this manner to talk about this game, they wanted to do something unique to review this game, and they were enjoying themselves quite a lot. Suddenly, you heard the hammer of the judge hit, and you looked up to him.

“Before you two ramble on and on about the game, let’s focus on the final two topics of this trial. These are gameplay and the story. Let’s start with the gameplay. Is this game fun to play?” the judge asked.

Gameplay and Story

This time, the attorney started with his argument: “I really liked the analysis sections and pitting the jury against each other. The summation examination mechanic is really solid and adds a lot to the trials. I also liked the Dance of Deduction mechanic for investigations, as it made a section of the game that I usually find to be kind of middling into something more interesting. Being able to examine most pieces of evidence is great and adds a layer of drama to the trials when you suddenly get something new and then a huge new clue comes from checking it out.”

And of course, as expected, the prosecutor wanted to say something as well. “I could start an argument that the game is somewhat repetitive. But, the game is for a certain audience. An audience that enjoyed the mystery novel gameplay. So, they won’t get too bored. And if they get bored, or burned out, they can take a break and come back to the game at a later time. I don’t have any counterarguments in the gameplay department. This game is easy to learn and if you have played previous entries in the series, it’s still enjoyable to play with the new mechanics and tricks it brings to the table.”

So, it’s time for the big one. The story. You didn’t want to miss this. Both parties agreed to keep this debate spoiler free, so you were curious how they were going to handle that. You heard the judge introduce and explain that fact, and both parties looked to each other, readying themselves for the most important topic of this whole debate. 

After a small pause, the attorney started: “I really enjoyed Ryunosuke as a protagonist and the way in which this story is all about building his self-confidence and him finding his path through life. Susato is a wonderful assistant character, and I found myself cheering for her all the time during my playthrough. While Lord van Zieks being racist against the Japanese people really bugs me, it made it fun to get the upper hand against him during the trials, and he has a powerful, evocative design. Also, let’s not forget that this entry has various moments where things don’t always have the rose colored ending we would come to expect.”

The prosecutor agreed, but had to add a few things. “Yet, it sometimes falls in the same trap that all the previous entries started to fall in. I found some sections to be a bit predictable. But, I’m not going to go too in-depth about that since we agreed to keep this debate spoiler  free. One thing I would have loved to see is more voice acting. The voice actors did an amazing job in the cutscenes to make their characters come to life. If only that was used more. Of course, it would be somewhat overkilled if the whole massive script was voice acted, but a bit more would be stunning. It would give more power to certain strong moments in the game.”

The attorney swiftly moved on and said: “It’s a breathtaking entry point for newcomers since it’s a totally new cast of characters. This has been my favorite storyline since Trials and Tribulations. The story is grounded and compelling, with lots of twists and turns throughout. Using two games to tell one big overarching story was a good move.” 

The prosecutor cracked his whip loudly, causing the defense attorney to reflexively flinch. The entire courtroom was paying attention to him. “But, there are a few things that could have been handled better in terms of writing. First, if you don’t understand English too well, especially British English… A lot will go over your head with the dialect writing and no option to turn it off. But, props for writing the script in that way, though. Now, if only there were more Japanese jokes and such snuck in when a case played in Japan. Speaking of which, there is no investigation section in Japan. Which brings me to my next point. The structure of the game feels weird in places. The tutorial feels too long in the first game because of both the first and second chapters being tutorials (one for trials and one for investigations). The first game essentially only has two proper cases in it, and the trials are never broken up by investigation sections, so the investigations feel super long.”

He left a small pause to try and read the room. It looked like he wanted to say something, but he was unsure if he should mention it or not. You could read in his eyes that he has seen this dilemma before. Should he talk about something that might spoil the whole game before or should he leave it out since they agreed not to talk about spoilers in their debate? 

So, you sat there looking at both parties argue. Each party had great points to bring to the table. You could totally understand where both parties were coming from. But, now it’s up to you, dear reader, to draw your own conclusion. Yes, the writers of this collab are taking that ‘easy’ way out. Now that you heard the negatives and the positives of the game, what do you think? Let us know in the comments down below, and maybe we shall ask you to be our next witness in this trail to answer the question in this trail once and for all. 

Editorial note: the portrayals of the prosecution and defense represent the combined views of both NekoJonez and Adventure Rules, who each contributed pros and cons to the review. 

Additional note from me, NekoJonez: Thank you so much Ian from Adventure Rules for working with me on this! Your art, advice, proof reading and advice made this collab come out the amazing way it did. Really check out his blog and his Twitter if you want to see more of his work. It’s amazing and worth checking out! Thanks buddy for this collab and thank you for all the support man!

Speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine GBC – Level 1 – Canyonlands (Part 2)

Introduction to this miniseries

A while ago, I wrote an article about speedrunning one of my most treasured childhood games. One of my yearly traditions is playing through this game and ever since last year, I wanted to have a new challenge. That challenge I found in speedrunning the game, and now when I’m playing the game, I try to challenge myself to try to beat my PB. In this miniseries, I’m going to talk about the current route, tips, and tricks of the Game Boy Color speedrun of this game. So, let’s grab our hat and whip and let’s dive right into the first level… again? Well, yes. It’ll soon become clear. Also, feel free to leave a comment down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this article, the content, the game and/or the route.

Introduction to All Treasures

In the first part, linked higher, of this miniseries… I talked about the Any% route. Basically, the goal in the Any% category is to finish the level as quickly as possible. Now, there is another category we have and that’s “All Treasures”.

So, in each level of this game, 10 treasures are hidden. The Game Boy Color version is an exception to that, since it has two levels with no treasures. This exception doesn’t even apply to the PC nor the N64 version.

The treasures are meant to buy supplies at the “IQ store” in between levels. In the PC & N64 version, you can buy more varied health items and ammo but in the GBC (Game Boy Color) version, you can only buy either a health kit or a poison kit. And you can have a max stock of 5, which is also different compared to the PC & N64 version.

Now, all treasures is a tricky run to do. Since, in the GBC version, you need to play close to perfection if you want to unlock the final “secret” level Peru. In a full game all treasures run you can choose between two categories. You either go for “All Treasures (No Peru)” or “2055 IQ”.

The tricky thing about “2055 IQ” is that you basically can’t close to anything, or you won’t have enough points to go to the Peru level. And in the run, you aren’t allowed to cheat and after beating the game enter the level code and skip the challenge. But, the tricky thing is that some levels require you to use a health pack for the quickest route. It’s a puzzle I currently haven’t attempted and plan to do one day.

But, I’ll focus on full game runs in their separate article. For now, let’s focus on Individual Levels Speedruns or ILS for short. So, how is the current route of the “All Treasures” of Canyonlands? Let’s explore!

The category rules as of writing this article:

Link to Speedrun.com page
The current world record at the time of writing is owned by me who ran this level in 4 minutes and 41 seconds on April 17th 2022.
The previous records I had were: 5m25, 4m58, 4m53.

Feel free to follow along while waiting the run.

Note: in this article I talk about time marks of the run. Since there is a failed run in the upload, the video time doesn’t match the run time. I’m sorry about that.

Note 2: when I say “current record”, I obviously mean my current record at the time of writing this article. So, I hope to clears up confusion when this record is beaten and/or improved by me or someone else.

The run explored

So, unlike the Any% route… We avoid the ladder snipe down directly. Since this snipe would make 4 out of the 10 treasures impossible to collect. So, we go left.

Now, the movement of this scorpion on the other platform is an RNG fest. In most cases, if you hug the upper wall, you can avoid it without any problem. When I get bitten by the scorpion, I reset right away. The lost health from the poison makes gathering the first treasures way more risky.

So, the sequence of events here is:

  • Jump over the safe pit
  • Huge the uppermost wall and go left
  • Jump over the unsafe pit
  • Ready Indy’s whip by mashing select twice while running left
  • Jump at the last second, so you jump over the waterfall.

If you do this sequence perfectly, you’ll be right in place to whip over the gap. Yet, this is easier said than done. The sequence of inputs I just described are close to frame perfect in some places. All these actions take place in give or take two or three seconds. When I don’t reach the other end and climbing the ladder when the timer hits 11 seconds, I know I can reset the run.

Why do I see that as a reset point? Well, because I know myself. If I allow my timer to be higher, I’ll go in a slight panic mode since I feel like I’m unable to beat my record and make too many silly mistakes sometimes costing me the whole run. So, it’s to keep myself calm. Anyway, you might have noticed that yellow coin looking thing in the 2nd screenshot. That’s one of the four treasures here. That’s the treasure you should get last. If you take this as your first treasure, you’ll lose a lot of time since there is no easy way to get back to the area with the first three treasures, and you’ll have to do the whip swing again which costs around a second or two.

Oh yes, you can save some time if you jump up right after swinging with the whip. This saves half a second in climbing, but it’s tricky to do, and a bad jump can land you either lower or just at the bottom of the ladder losing the time save. But, as far as I know, there is no real danger in trying to attempt this trick.

Now, after you climbed up… I highly suggest that you press select once so Indy’s hand is the tool you are using. Now, there is something you need to know about doors in this game.

I enter the treasure room in my current world record around 16-17 seconds. If you watch the run, you might notice that Indy looks like he is entering the wall.

Now, here is the thing about doors in this game. The hitboxes are wider than they visually appear. So, in other words, visually it looks like you can enter where the aqua line is. Yet, you can enter where I drew the white line.

Trying to enter a door as soon as possible saves a few frames, but these add up quickly in this level.

Now, this is a moment where you can make a choice. I haven’t tested it which route is faster. The first choice is that you go for the two treasures above and the second choice is that you go for the treasure at the bottom. Both have their dangers but all three need to be collected.

The sequence of collecting these three depend on me if I’m able to enter the door behind the stone you can push. Usually, I go to the right of the stone and push it to the left while hugging the wall. I let go of left at the end of the push animation to push up and usually Indy goes in the door right away.

Yet, in my current world record run I decided to do things a bit different. I decided to jump up right away and get the two treasures on top. Without pushing the stone at all. Which is a dangerous and risky move.

Usually, when you push the block to the left… You can jump up on the left side and grab the red jewel. After that, it’s easy to avoid the bastard of an enemy and grab the green jewel. Oh, jump over those tiles with the crack in them. Since, if Indy is full on that tile… He’ll fall down below in the water without any way out. Loosing your chance to pick up the treasures in this area.

If you go up right away, the chances of that enemy poising Indy is a lot higher. But if you go up, you’ll need to first go for the green jewel. Since going for the red first will make you a better target for the enemy and corner jumps are quite tricky, and I landed so many times on those unstable tiles during attempts, it’s not funny anymore. Also, I find that when you drop down after the red jewel, it’s easier to line Indy up to push the stone without having to re-orient him.

So, let’s push the stone, so we can pick up the final treasure in this treasure room. After going up, there is a very ideal way to move in this room to have the fastest time.

Yes, I’m taking screenshots of the YouTube upload

The blue and purple lines show the way towards and back from the treasure. Depending on the movement of the scorpion, it’s easier to line yourself up. While you can walk pretty close to the water… It’s a reset when you fall in. Since, you lost your chance to pick up two treasures now. In my current record, I chose to go down & around since the scorpion was a bit too close to the ideal route and I didn’t want to risk it.

And also, it’s best that you pick up the treasure on the first few frames on your way back. Since, you’ll be able to keep your momentum which saves a few frames. You can see how I do my controller inputs for this around the 37 second mark in the run.

On my way back, I noticed that the scorpion was down below, so I was able to get closer to the edge with the water. But, it’s possible to get even closer, but remember… This is quite risky since falling into the water makes you unable to obtain certain treasures. Since, unlike the PC/N64 version, there is no way to get back up here and obtain these treasures. Even in casual play.

So, around the 48-second mark… I have left the treasure room. With a bit better movement and not being poisoned by the enemy I think I can shave a second off here. Yet, it would be extremely tricky to do and risky. After leaving the treasure room, it’s time to go to the right to go down, jump over the waterfall and pick up the coins we saw earlier to pick up the final out of 4 treasures on top here.

During my current record, I lose a bit of time here as well by hugging the upper wall.

Now, comes something risky. After collecting the coins, you’ll need to jump down and try to line Indy up the closest edge of the waterfall. The goal is to land in the pool down below closest to the exit point. But, when you jump down too early… You might let Indy miss the pool and die. Jump too late, and you lose a second or two in the water since Indy swims so slow in this game. My drop/jump around the 53-second mark isn’t perfect. I was too center. I had better but I also had worse. After dropping into the water, exit it as soon as you can at the top right-hand side.

After exiting the water, you might notice that enemy and want to jump over or away from it. Don’t. Since, it’s somewhat easy to avoid and you are risking loosing time by either dropping back into the water or jumping too early/late and getting poisoned. Just move a bit down around the spot in the screenshot above. I actually moved down perfectly in my current record. Since, you need to avoid a wall and go into the door a bit behind it. This is what you see me do around the 1 minute 4 seconds mark.

Now we enter a “puzzle” room where I hate the movement with a passion. If there is one thing I’m not too good at… that’s precise movement.

The solution to the puzzle is that you need to walk on the sun tiles in a certain sequence. First, you hit the 3rd tile counting from the left. Then, go to the first tile without walking over the second tile and just walk over the rest. So, from the left the sequence is: 2-3-1-4.

The issue here is that the hitboxes of these tiles are a bit off. The tops are quite sensitive and the bottoms aren’t. So, when you try and walk from tile 3 to tile 1, it’s easy to trigger tile 2 when you go overtop. Now, it’s highly recommended that you go overtop since the treasurees will drop from the totempole you see on top this room. So, yeah, this room is tricky and might require some “training”.

Now, after the treasures drop: go for the left most treasure first! Since, the right most treasure is perfectly in line with the door. Mixing these up might cost you a few frames. After exiting this puzzle room, you go to the right. There is another stone which needs to be pushed down once and then left once. It’s possible to jump from there to ledge above the door. Yet, I find it safer and more consitent to push it left twice so the gap is only one block. For some reason, I have a hard time making those two block jumps from a lower to a higher platform. While it is possible as you’ll see in the next level.

Now, hug the wall and jump at the last second as shown in the screenshot below here. If you do it right, you’ll grab the ladder and skip a part of the climbing animation. This is one of the minor optimisations you can do to save a few frames. Yet, be careful with trying this one. If you push Indy too much to the left, you will not grab the ladder and miss the platform and have to go back on the ledge.

After this, it’s a bit of climbing we need to do. Jump earlier to the ladder to skip climbing it when you can. This is an easy trick to master which can shave so much time off your runs. After the 2nd ladder, be careful since there is a scorpion quite close to the part where you accend from the ladder and being poisoned there is real easy. That’s why I usually jump forwards once to avoid that and get closer to the door.

Be sure you are at least more half health now since there are some parts coming up that will require you to be able to tank/take some damage. If needed, there is a herb in the hallway. Herbs are faster to heal compared to going into the menu, going to a medkit and then going out of the menu. You see me pick up the one outside of the hallway around the 2 minute 2 seconds mark.

There is a reason why I take out the pistol around the 2 minute 18 seconds mark. Because there are some enemies coming up which are difficult to avoid when you exit a door. I rather shoot them to be safe. Now, it’s possible to save a bit of time to do a corner jump from the ladder platform as shown with the purple line. But, it’s a tricky one and might cause you to loose your run. Corner jumps are in general not easy in this game. Usually, I take the safe route wit the lightblue line. Which looses a few frames, but it’s safer and more consistent.

Now, after this, you can make another choice. Go right into the closest door or go for another treasure. There are 4 left we still need to get and it doesn’t really matter which one you go for first. I usually go for the bottom one last. If you want to go for the bottom one first, be my guest. This will be the last treasure talked about in this article.

So, I go into the closest door right after killing that enemy. In that case, don’t put your revolver away. Since, scorpions have this nasty “”feature”” where they can poison you during the whipping across animation. So, shoot the scorpion dead when you enter the room and go left to whip across. Remember to use select to switch between your tools to save time. Opening & closing the menu adds so much additional time.

Now, don’t make the same mistake as me here. When you need to whip across, you shouldn’t be right at the edge since Indy’ll whip in front of him then. And this’ll cost you a second or so. Stand a bit more back. When you are swinging across, you might notice the next treasure.

If you pick it up now, it’s fine. If you want to pick it up on your way back… It’s fine as well. The time to pick up this treasure is the same either way. In my current record, I chose to pick it up after the two treasures after whipping across again. So, don’t forget to pick this one up if you skip it now. But, after whipping across… Shoot the enemy, for a similar reason as before. Now, after that, you’ll see two doors at the bottom.

You can choose the sequence of the two here. Since I have the gun equiped, I prefer the left door first. So, I’ll explain the right part later.

The gun is equiped and we go in the left door. The gun is needed since there is a nasty troll scorpion that you will encouter right after exiting the hallway after the door. Either move to the right, right away, or shoot it. If you shot it without getting poisoned, count yourself lucky since that will make the upcoming part way easier.

Now, the treasure is at the bottom of this section. Drop down as quickly as you can without taking too much damage. Since, you’ll need the health to tank scorpion poison since they are so nastly placed. Be sure to switch back to the hand to pick up the treasure box. I started my decent on the 2 minutes 47 seconds mark. The decent was quite clean. But, my ascend. Oh boy. From 2 minutes 56 seconds you see some messy jumping and me getting screwed over by scorpion poison twice. It’s something to costs me so much time and doing the ascend propely is somewhat stressful.

So, after the hallway, equip your gun again to kill the newly spawned scorpion and now, it’s time to explain the right door. For that door, be sure you have the hand equipped. Since, right after exiting the door, you’ll have to drop down.

If you drop down on the corner edge of the platform, you reach the hitbox when Indy is in that landing animation and when you mash “A”, you’ll pick up the treasure. Go left and swap to the whip to swing across.

Jump across the death pit and be VERY careful trying to do a ladder jump here. It might save you a few frames into the climbing animation but missing the ladder means certain doom and dead run. I rarely to never risk it here since I desipe loosing a run to a silly mistake near the end of the run.

After the ladder, go to the right, up and over jump across and get back into the door. After that, swing across the two gaps and get into the door again. Now, we come back to one of the choice spots. Since I started to talk about the “top” door first, let’s go down and to the left now for the final treasure.

In here, there is the final treasure of this level. Be careful to not step on the cracked tiles since they drop you down lower in the level. And when you don’t have enough health, they are deadly.

Now, it’s time to go to the right the whole way after exiting this door. Go towards the ladder we climbing up, where I said you could save time with that risky corner jump. And now go to the right instead of the left. And then, it’s basically the Any% run route after the ladder snipe. Be careful, since now there is an extra scorpion for you to avoid. But, I use that one to jump at the right time to speed up the first long climb.

My ending was a bit messy but hey. That means more time can be shaved off this run. Since we played the full level, we see Sophia actually walk up to Indy. When you do the ladder snipe of the Any% run, Sophia won’t show up but the textbox will play.

Don’t forget to push “A” to skip the textbox faster. And yeah, that’s the whole route.

Looking back on this run, I’m certain that a run of 4 minutes 38 seconds is totally possible. Especially since I saw a lot of potential improvement while looking through this run to write this article.

Now, this level has one of the biggest differences between the Any % route and the All Treasures route. A 4-minute difference even.

After writing this article, I’m quite hyped to try and beat my record. So, I’m going to try and do that during my summer holidays. Keep an eye on my Twitter since I’ll post there when I have beaten my time.

But oh boy, was this a long article yet a fun one to write. Next time in this miniseries, I’m going to take a look at the second level Babylon. Maybe I might write only one article about that level since most of these treasures aren’t too far off the main route for Any%, yet they do cost a lot of time to grab.

And with that said, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Game Quicky: Cube Grid (PC – Steam) ~ Rolling Around On The Grid

Steam store pageOfficial website

To be honest, the mobile games that attract me the most are the simple and easy to understand mobile games. When I play a game on my phone, it’s mostly to waste time while waiting for my train or something along those lines. It’s rare that I play bigger mobile games. When the small German indie studio Alchemical reached out to me with a press code for their newly released Steam port of Cube Grib, I was directly interested. So, in this article you’ll read my 100% honest opinion on the game and if I would recommend it or not. Also, this isn’t the studio’s first game, so, feel free to look at their website if you are looking for other mobile games to try out. In any case, let’s start this game quicky while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: I played v1.0.1 for this review.

The good cubes

There is no silly story in this game. This could be seen as a bummer to some people, but this game gets into the meat of the gameplay right away. The tutorial explains the game wonderfully, and you can dive right into the game.

The idea of this game is that you have to flip each colored tile while your cube is in the right color. Moving over a full colored tile flips it to a “square” tile (since there is a square drawn on it with that color). Moving over a “square” tile with the same color, flips it back to a full colored one. Which means, you have to reflip it before you can finish the level.

This game is a textbook example of being difficult to explain in text and better to see in action. Sadly, the trailer on the Steam page gives the wrong impression. There, the tiles turn black and this is something that doesn’t happen in the game. Since, that’s how it works in the mobile version. In this, somewhat enhanced PC-version, there are a few improvements that make this game even more enjoyable. Like more control options and being visual a bit better. Also, there are achievements in this version. Something that a lot of people adore, myself included. I find it fun to get these achievements when I do or reach certain things in games.

Now, the mobile version is free. This version costs 4 bucks. This is something you can look at in both ways. As a negative and a positive. Personally, I think this game is worth the price of admission, but I would love to see more features in the future to make it stand out more compared to the free version on mobile.

The controls are quite responsive. They are easy to learn but sometimes a bit tricky to master. For some reason, I messed up sometimes. But, quite sure that’s on me. Since the unique viewing angle of the stage made me mess up my directions sometimes. And to help with that, this game has an undo button that doesn’t count for one additional move. Sadly, you can only undo one move. So, if you want to undo more than one move, you are out of luck.

Visually, this game looks amazing. This game looks clean and isn’t “loud”. Even when you don’t understand English, you can play this game easily. The (UI) design is that good. In addition to that, the audiovisual presentation is great as well. The sound effects and music add so much to the game’s atmosphere. There are a few minor moments that miss sound effects, especially menu interactions but that’s so minor that it didn’t really bother me.

Speaking of visual presentation, you can choose the cube you play as. The amount of stars you earn at the end of each level are currency in the shop you can access from the main menu. In there, you can exchange your stars for a new cube you can play as. This is nothing more than just a visual change, but it is a nice feature that gives a bit of diversity to this game.

This game introduces the special mechanics in a pleasant way. The difficulty curve of this game is excellent, and I have nothing to remark about it. Each level provides a new challenge and the further you go, the more mechanics you’ll have to keep in mind. For example, around the 20th level you get introduced to the “timed tile”. So, when you touch that tile with the right color, you have a certain amount of moves before it reflips. So, keep these tiles as the last tile, so you can win the level.

The fact that there is no time limit or punishment if you take like “a million” moves to clear the level makes this game such an amazing title to wind down.

The bad cubes

There are a few minor issues in this Steam port. Let me talk about the controller controls first. You can control this game with a controller, and it works really well. But, controlling the menu’s and UI of the game isn’t possible. In the latest update, a controller button was added to rewind a move or restart the stage but going to the home menu isn’t possible.

Speaking of the controls, in during the levels you see a “WASD” lay-out. But the game doesn’t recognize another keyboard lay-out. So, I’m sitting here with my Belgian “AZERTY” lay-out being a bit annoyed that it’s not showing “ZQSD”. But that’s a minor nitpick since the arrow buttons work as well and that’s how I mostly played this game.

Now, there is no hint system in this game. So, if you are stuck in a certain puzzle, you can’t have any hints. Granted, developing a hint system for this type of game is quite tricky. How would you implement a hint system without it making the game quite easy or “play itself”. Here is an idea, just like in Quell, you have to pay a certain amount of coins to either see the full solution or set you on your way. And how would you earn these coins in this game? Well, maybe there is on or two hidden in each stage, and you have to click on a certain tile OR the amount of stars makes you earn a certain amount of coins?

Now, the tutorials in this game are excellent. Nothing to criticize about that. But, if you display a text box over the game, make it so that the game can’t be played in the background, or you can create weird edge cases that might break your game.

Something that’s really missing in this game is a colorblind mode. Take a game like Tetris Attack on the SNES, in this game each tile has a symbol on it, so colorblind people can easily recognize which tile is which color. In this game, each color can have its own symbol and the cube to switch color can be a similar shape, so it’s easy to distinguish. And if possible, make it an option so that people who find the mode annoying can turn it off.

There is one feature I’d love to see in a new update. In Invincible Cleopatra, there is a bar to the side of your screen that shows how close you are to perfecting the level. This is something that isn’t in this game. So, when you beat the level, it’s always waiting to see if you do or don’t get all three stars.

The conclusion

I might have written a lot of negative things about this game or things that are a bit broken/unpolished. Yet, most of these things can be patched out of the game with a (few) updates, making this game even more fun to play.

Maybe I’m a bit harsh on the game, and maybe I should look at this game for what it is. A love project where a small team of developers poured their hart and soul into. And that’s something you can clearly see.

While this game has a few shortcomings, I still would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys casual puzzle games. Or if you are looking for a simple but challenging (puzzle) game to wind down, this game is something for you.

If you are really interested in this game, I’d buy the Steam version. Since, you throw some money to the developers and that might motivate them to create an even better version or create more games. If you are unsure, you can give the mobile version a try and decide then.

In summary, this game is good and with some additional polishing it can become even better. Most of the issues I have with this game aren’t that big and can be implemented without a lot of effort. Overall, I think this game is an enjoyable time waster and I can’t wait to see which improvements the future brings.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 80/100

Speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine GBC – Level 1 – Canyonlands (Part 1)

PC game reviewGBC review

In the past, I have reviewed the two versions of one of the biggest games in my childhood. Ever since I saw Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Arc, I was hooked. When my cousin showed me that he had a 3D PC adventure game starring Indiana Jones, I kept playing that game until the disc actually broke on me. Yes, that frequently. Also, I didn’t have a lot of access to the internet and also my native language isn’t English, so navigating the early internet was a challenge. So, beating this game without it being well known… Was a challenge. It was no Pokémon where you could ask things to other kids during recess. I played this game over and over again, and a while ago I started speedrunning it. And in this new series of articles, I’m going to talk about the routes/tips & tricks on speedrunning this game. I’m going to focus on the GBC version, since that’s the version I mostly run and know best.

Some background

Foremost, I want to give some additional background. Especially since this is the first article in a series. When I got the GBC version for my birthday one day, I was unable to beat it. I was unable to finish Shambala for the longest time. There are some unlogical things you have to do if you haven’t played the PC version or if you don’t try everything.

Fast-forward to last year in April. After re-playing the game for the “I lost count how many times” time on the PC, I wanted to challenge myself. So, I thought, why not speedrun the game. And then I started running the PC version. I started the “All Treasures category” in the PC version since the “Any%” category is quite optimized.

If you are already lost in what I’m saying let me quickly fill you in. A speedrun is a challenge you can do in a game where you have to beat a level or the full game as quickly as possible without cheating. Now, abusing game mechanics or glitches is allowed. Well, depending on the category and/or game. Some terms that speedrunners use are:

  • ILS: a term used when only one level is ran.
  • Any%: a term that’s used to indicate that the goal is beaten as fast as possible by skipping as much as possible.
  • Category: an example of a category is Any% or ILS. It’s a type of speedrun, basically. You either have the complete the whole level/game 100% as fast as possible or collect all X or not take damage or not abuse a certain glitch… It explains itself basically.
  • TAS: Tool Assisted Speedrun. This means that certain tools were used to create the run. For example, using save states to create the perfect run. (A save state is “save” that saves the current state of the game at the moment the save state is made and can be loaded by the press of a button). Tools like emulators to have better quality footage of the run aren’t always TAS runs, depends on the game/community.
  • Strats: just a sort of strategy/technique.
  • PB: personal best time.

Now, I’ll try to explain terms in my article. When you don’t understand a certain term or something written in this article, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section, and I’ll do my best to answer it. Anyways, let’s start with explaining the starts and such are used in the first level of the Game Boy Color version of the game.

Any%

The official rule set at the moment of writing:

Link to Speedrun.com page
The current world record at the time of writing is owned by Molotok who ran this level in 29 seconds.
My current best at the time of writing is 30 seconds, which earns me the second place.

In the Any% route of this level, you get directly introduced the one of the biggest tricks in this game and that’s ladder sniping.

You’d think that runners are jumping to their impending doom here. Yet, this isn’t true. In this game, when you jump down, and you grab a ladder, all movement and fall damage is canceled. After Indy slides down the ramp, almost directly to the right, you can find the ending of the level.

Sadly, there are some annoying parts of this ladder snipe. For of all, take this image. On there, I have drawn a blue line and a green line. Stating the obvious I know, but go with me.

When Indy slides down at the start of the level, he stops somewhere in the blue zone. Well, more in the middle of the ramp. But the annoying thing is that when you go directly to the right then, you’ll hit a wall.

If you want to beat the WR in this level, and you hit that starting wall, you might as well reset. This ladder snipe is so optimized that the world record hasn’t been tied yet. Even master PC/N64 runner the_kovic with his 30 second run has trouble matching that 29 seconds.

After falling down, you need to grab this ladder. Grabbing the ladder when falling down is dubbed a “ladder snipe” in our community. The following image is the frame I grabbed the ladder in my PB.

This is how Molotok got the ladder snipe:

A few pixels higher and a bit more in the middle. This meant he saves some milliseconds there and actually goes faster.

After that, it’s climbing up and going to the right:

Taken from Molotoks video of his 29 second speedrun.

See the green line? Well, that’s a jump. It’s a few frames faster than walking close to it and then jumping. After that, we walk diagonally and give or take at the black X, we jump.

Why a jump towards the ladder there? Well, climbing ladders in this game is extremely slow. The fewer time spent climbing ladders, the better. In this game, you don’t need to start at the bottom of the ladder to climb one. In this game, there are a few moments where you need to drop from the top of a ladder to the bottom of another one. This means, that as soon as Indy hits a ladder, and you hold up, the game’ll cling Indy to the ladder, and you can start climbing. The game automatically centers Indy into the middle of the ladder when you grabbed the sides while climbing upwards. This little jump (ab)uses on how the ladders work to shave off a few frames.

When climbing up the ladder, a trick comes which I have a hard time mastering. And that’s when you reach the top of the ladder, you can go a bit to the side to save a few frames. For some reason, I go too much to the left and fall off. So, that’s why I don’t do it in my run but other runners and the TAS of the Any% of this game does.

It basically looks like this, done by Molotok

After that, we go a little to the left and do two jumps in quick succession.

Still taken from my 30 seconds PB.

The second jump is basically to lower the climbing time.

Comparing my PB to the world record, I notice that it’s mostly movement based. The fact that my snipes usually a little lower, and I don’t do the trick at the top of ladders. This costs me a ton of frames, making my 30 seconds run a bit slower compared to the world record.

After reaching the top, you have give or take 5 seconds of a small cutscene. I highly recommend you mash the A button at that time, since the faster the text box goes away, the better.

Now, when you do this ladder snipe and go for any%, the ending of this level is a bit different. The final scorpion isn’t present at ladder and Sophia doesn’t appear in the end credits scene. I honestly don’t know why, but it’s a unique difference between the Any% route and the “All Treasures route”.

Feedback requested

Now, before I get into the “All treasures” route of this level and the differences in a full game run and an ILS, I want to wrap up this article here. Because I want to hear from you all what you think. Would you want more articles like this? Where I talk about the route, techniques and all that? Do you want it in a different structure or in a different way? Is everything clear or are some parts confusing?

Writing about my speedrunning experiences is something I wanted to do for quite a while. Especially since this blog is a sort of diary of my gaming life and beside in update articles or on my Twitter, I haven’t really talked too in depth on my speedrunning. And since the PC & N64 routes are quite well documented, I thought it would be fun to do that for the GBC as well in my unique way.

I thought writing an article on my blog, giving the game more exposure would be way more fun than; how I wrote that guide about the locations of all the treasures in the PC version you can find on the resources page on the Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine speedrun page. So, this is really an experimental article and depending on your feedback… I’ll continue this series and/or improve it accordingly.

Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed it. I know it’s something else besides my usual game reviews and such, but I felt refreshed writing about something different and still have it game related. I enjoyed writing this so much, and I can’t wait to see, hear and read the reactions. If you all enjoy this, this’ll become another series on my blog until I have talked about every level in the game and talked about the full game runs.

And with that said, I think I have to say goodbye for now. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article about speedrunning this game and/or me talking about another game. But until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.